Voting With Enthusiasm

“….seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1: 17) Here’s how I translate this biblical urging into the way I will vote in November:

1. The passage of the Affordable Health Care Act was enough to make me an enthusiastic voter for Barack Obama’s reelection. It goes a long way toward a much more humane health care system for our country. And the Republicans have no viable alternative to this law they intend to repeal. Romney is running for President against two people: himself and Obama! Obamacare is Romneycare, fundamentally the same concept Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It is modeled on a plan that was created by a conservative think-tank years ago, as a way to prevent single-payer government health insurance from being enacted. (I hope we get single-payer someday, but till then, Obamacare is a step in the right direction.) Likewise, Ryan is running against himself.  In a breathtaking deception in his Republican convention speech, he criticized Obama for a re-allocation of a portion of Medicare funds that Ryan himself advocated and voted for in Congress!  The lies of Romney and Ryan about their position on Medicare reveal their awareness that the American people don’t agree with them.  No current Republican plan comes close to offering near-universal insurance coverage and ending insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage to people with pre-existing health problems (there’s no way to separate these two necessities), increasing access to preventive care, and creating incentives to reduce medical costs. If private enterprise could solve our health care system’s problems, it would already have done so by now.

2. I support Obama’s plan for dealing with the federal deficit: a combination of tax increases and careful cuts to to the budget that won’t shred the social safety net. Taxing the rich more won’t affect job growth. Only 10% of the rich create new jobs. (See an article documenting it here .)  Mostly, rich people are risk-averse.  They invest in financial instruments and in the stocks of established companies, which have little impact on job growth. Under the Republican administration of Eisenhower, the top marginal tax rate for rich people was 91%. Now it’s capped at 35%. There has been an enormous widening of the income gap in America in the intervening decades, and lowered taxes on the rich has contributed greatly to this problem. (See my “musing” on faith and progressive taxation here.)  During the Clinton administration – before the Bush-era tax cuts – the economy grew and jobs multiplied.  The budget cuts planned by the Republicans would wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs in the public sector and cause a net loss of jobs and a slide back into economic recession.  Clearly, they are much more interested in shrinking government than they are in creating jobs or balancing the budget.

3. I support Obama’s view of the role of government: big problems require big solutions. Let’s make Social Security and Medicare fiscally solvent, rather than destroying them and other safety-net programs for the sake of a head-trip against “big government”. When we pledge allegiance to our flag, we’re saluting Social Security and Medicare and the EBT food stamp program, along with all else that makes our nation great. Charity can’t effectively solve the problems these programs were designed to address.  For instance, all charitable food donations in America add up to just 6% of the dollar value of the federal programs that feed the poor – and Ryan proposed cutting the EBT food stamp program by 16%!  So today, if you want to help feed the hungry, by far the most effective donation you can make is to the Obama campaign and to Democratic candidates for Congress.  Romney and Ryan make a big deal about leaving Medicare as it is for people who are seniors today. That’s their tacit admission that the Republican privatization plan is a bad deal for everybody under the age of 55. Most Americans will lose guaranteed health care coverage in their senior years, if the Republicans have their way. Remind your friends and families of the many successes of “big government” in America’s history: the Panama Canal, the end of child labor and of 7-day work-weeks, the Marshall Plan, the interstate highway system, the GI Bill that raised a whole generation of working-class people into the middle class, Fannie Mae mortgages that enabled millions of people to buy houses for the first time. Free enterprise is the best way to provide us with cars, clothes, computers, and so many other things we need. But the vitality of private enterprise depends on a strong, activist government protecting its people from ill health and poverty.

4. I am enthusiastic about Obama’s defense of women’s right to choose an abortion and women’s access to contraception, his support of same-sex marriage, his choices for the Supreme Court and other judicial appointments, his intentions for immigration reform, and his respect for the special needs of minority groups in America. He’s defending freedom – yours and mine! Protecting our most vulnerable citizens is what faith asks of us – and it’s what makes America great.

5. I’m enthusiastic about turning out the vote! Remind your relatives and friends across America: if you don’t vote, you’ll vote Republican.  56.9% of eligible voters voted in the 2008 presidential and Congressional election. The Democrats took control of the White House and the Congress. 37.8% voted in the 2010 Congressional election. The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. Republicans turn out to vote at a higher rate than Democrats. So the Republican Party is engaged in a cynical effort to suppress the vote all over the country. Fraud is the ostensible reason they usually give for passing laws requiring ID’s and other changes making it harder to vote. But one Republican leader let slip the real motivation. “Voter ID … is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” declared Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania GOP state House majority leader, recently. But a senior deputy attorney general of that state reported that “The parties are not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in person voter fraud elsewhere.” (See Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” strip, illustrating the Republicans’ voter suppression strategy.)

6. I hope you’ll join me in voting on the “buddy system”. Just email your friends, neighbors, and relatives your choices for voting in every election. It stimulates lively discussion about the issues and the candidates among webs of personal relationships, and it encourages more people to vote. I know that some people on my “buddy list” will simply copy what I suggest and vote accordingly – they trust my judgement and don’t have the time or inclination to research their votes on their own. It would be wonderful if they studied the issues and candidates independently of me, and sent me their own voting list. But copying the votes of someone you trust is still real participation in democracy. By exercising our influence, gently and respectfully, with the people we know, we’re leveraging our votes into many more for the candidates and causes we favor.



Website: JIMBURKLO.COM    Weblog: MUSINGS    Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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